Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 December 2014

Collins’ sentence shows justice is a funny old thing

Justin Lee Collins
Justin Lee Collins

Disgraced comedian Justin Lee Collins must be the only person in Britain giving thanks to Jimmy Savile for keeping his conviction for harassing his ex-partner Anna Larke from the front pages.

He should also be giving thanks to an absurd legal system which values the systematic harassment of a vulnerable woman at 140 hours of pushing a broom.

Yes, Larke is not the picture of an “innocent” victim. She is a damaged young woman, who has a drink problem. With her crazy eyeshadow, she — to be frank — looks a bit unhinged.

But then again bullies like Collins target such vulnerable women — women who can be bullied, dominated and humiliated.

And they can get away with calling it “love”. Few could have read the details of Collins’ sick demands about making a diary of Larke's sexual history and not feel that this involved violence of a remarkable — yet covert — level. Why do something like that to someone you profess to care for?

The creepy thing about the details that emerged during the trial was just how typical Collins was of the emotional bully both in tactics and alibi: first, isolate, humiliate and mentally scar your victim, then insist you’re doing this for their own good.

Equally frightening, was just how plausible Collins sounded during the trial. The diaries were to help Larke to achieve “catharsis” and tackle her drinking etc etc. Yes, he sometimes lost the bap with her but you have to understand … Yes, you'd almost find yourself nodding in sympathy, it can’t have been easy for you, Justin … except then you caught yourself on and wondered what kind of decent man would insist on their partner writing out a sex diary?

Wouldn’t seeing that Larke sought professional help for her undoubted demons have been a simpler way of helping than all that DIY malarkey?

Hit somebody and, rightly, you'll face prison. Break somebody mentally and, if Collins' sentence serves as a precedent, it all becomes much more cloudy in the eyes of the law.

A slap on the wrist and a bad career break will be the worst things that happen to Collins. Give it a year and he'll be making a comeback.

There should be greater recognition that domestic abuse isn't just confined to physical violence — horrible as that is. The trauma caused by the verbal put-downs, the disgusting name-calling, the insane controlling behaviour inflicts scars all of their own. Many will have read the details of Collins’ case with a prurient, morbid fascination: how he forced Larke to sleep facing him, threw out DVDs because she may have fancied the stars, the tongue lashings, the obsessive jealousy.

Thank goodness most of us can put our papers away and get on with our lives.

But some do have to live with the Justin Lee Collinses of this world day in, day out.

It’s easy to say just walk away or to pretend that somehow the victims are colluding with their own humiliation. But for victims, walking out can demand a level of courage they’ve never displayed before in their lives.

No wonder domestic abuse organisations were outraged at the community service sentence handed to Collins. What a message to those — men as well as women — trapped in physically and/or emotionally abusive relationships? Have the courage to take your story to the police, watch your reputation being smeared and, if you're lucky, your tormentor will get away barely scratched by the ordeal.

For thousands of isolated, vulnerable people the Justin Lee Collins' case was no laughing matter.

Though she won't get it, Anna Larke deserves our admiration and thanks.

It took courage to put herself on the line — a courage betrayed by a legal system which seems determined not to understand.

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